Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Butter Factoids.

Butter has been around for a very long time, and the language of the ‘fatty substance obtained from cream by churning’ proves it. The Oxford English Dictionary has an enormous list of compound butter-words.

While you are buying your butter from the butter-dairy or the butter-shop, you might chat with the butter-maker, butter-dealer, butter-monger, butter-merchant, butter-man, butter-wife, or butter-woman. Your butter might have already had a trip in a butter-cart to get to the point of purchase, and then you take it home, perhaps wrapped in butter-muslin. Your purchase might have spent some time in a butter-churn, butter-tub, butter-barrel, butter-cask, or butter-firkin before you take it home and put it your butter-dish, butter-crock or butter cooler – or melt it and put it in your butter-boat. You might use a butter knife, butter scoop, or butter tongs to manage your butter while you decide whether to simply spread it on your bread or make butter-cream, butter-sauce, butter-biscuits, or butter-cake.

That isn’t all of the butter-words, but I didn’t want to labour the point too hard. One compound usage that was particularly enlightening is ‘butter salt’, which isfine common salt in small crystals obtained by rapid evaporation of brine, used in salting butter.’ Another is ‘butter-weight’which used to be 18 oz to the pound. In the future I must do a post on how and when a pound or an ounce or a hundred was not always the same for every product.

I now have an excuse to give you “Butter Biscuits” – several varieties in fact.

First, the ‘healthy option’, from Allinson’s Vegetarian Cookery Book (1915) – a rather bleak, sugarless, saltless, hardtack-style cracker, which would qualify for inclusion in a ‘Three Ingredients Cook Book.’
Butter Biscuits.
½ lb. butter, 2 lbs. wholemeal flour, ½ pint milk. Dissolve the butter in the milk, which should be warmed, then stir in the meal and make to a stiff, smooth paste. Roll out very thin, stamp it into biscuits, prick them out with a fork, and bake on tins in a quick oven.

Secondly, a similar concept, this time the dough being beaten into submission before baking,  from Eliza Leslie's Seventy-Five Receipts, for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats (1828) [with thanks to blog commenter Carolina for her correction of my wrong attribution.]

Butter Biscuits.
Half a pound of butter.
Two pounds of flour, sifted.
Half a pint of milk, or cold water.
A salt-spoonful of salt.
Cut up the butter in the flour, and put the salt to it. Wet it to a stiff dough with the milk or water. Mix it well with a knife. Throw some flour on the paste-board, take the dough out of the pan, and knead it very well. Roll it out into a large thick sheet, and beat it very hard on both sides with the rolling-pin. Beat it a long time. Cut it out with a tin, or cup, into small round thick cakes. Beat each cake on both sides, with the rolling-pin. Prick them with a fork. Put them in buttered pans, and bake them of a light brown in a slow oven.

Thirdly, a yeast-leavened soft roll, from Cookery and domestic economy, by Mary Somerville (Glasgow, 1862)

Butter Biscuits.
Weigh two pounds of flour, rub into it four ounces of butter, and two ounces of raw sugar; mix one cupful of good fresh yeast in a cupful of warm water, stir it in, cover up, and let stand by the fire all night. Next morning, work in a quarter of an ounce of powdered ammonia; knead together, and make up in small biscuits. Prickle them, and bake in a quick oven.

Quotation for the Day.
If toast always lands butter-side down, and cats always land on their feet, what happens if you strap toast on the back of a cat and drop it?
Stephen Wright.


carolina said...

HUZZAH for butter! And biscuits! Nothing better. But a little housekeeping detail...this "Butter Biscuits" receipt (recipe) is from Eliza Leslie's Seventy-Five Receipts, for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats (1828). Cook's Own Book is "By A Boston Housekeeper" (aka Mrs. N.K.M. Lee, 1832). Interestingly, this receipt is NOT in Leslie's Directions for Cookery in its Various Branches (1840). Not sure why that is (not that it matters).

The Old Foodie said...

Thanks Carolina! You are of course correct. I dont know how that one slipped through - too many cut and pastes incorrectly pasted,I would say. My mother would have said 'More haste, less speed.'
Duly corrected.